Apr 2, 2010

I Like It Fried: The Hawthorne Fish House in Portland, Oregon

Man I’ve been eating unhealthily of late!  I fully intended to sauté some veggies tonite, but the curry I made included shrimp paste, which contained gluten, which would surely cause a grievous reaction in my dining companion’s protoplasm.  So it seemed serendipitous when she suggested we go to the Hawthorne Fish House, it being on my list of restaurants to try while in Portland. 

I wasn’t aware of the mostly gluten free menu, my primary interest was in seeking out good fried seafood, which I think is pretty much an oxymoron in these parts.  Let’s face it, most fried seafood is crappy for at least two reasons:  the fish is past its prime and no longer tastes of the sea in a good way, then it’s over battered and saturated with grease.  Okay, three reasons.  Still, I’m a sucker even for low quality fish and chips, so when I spied the Hawthorne Fish House on my daily jog around southeast Portland, I added it to my agenda.   

You’ve probably deduced that I found the experience worth writing about.  It was Good Fried Fish!  Really good.  I ordered the Tug Boat, which included oysters, halibut, walleye and catfish [I swear I got cod instead of catfish - a bonus for me].  When the waiter asked, “which sauce would you like?” he read my face and brought me all three. 

I’m sure you’ve had a fish basket in which it was impossible to discern the different types of fish visually, much less through flavor and texture.  That was not the case with tonite’s meal.  The fish was fresh and so delicately breaded and fried (with brown rice flour!) that I could easily differentiate each species and even taste where they came from.  That’s the pleasure of eating fresh fish.  The golden nuggets were succulent and almost greaseless.  I’m not kidding.  The combination of fresh, lightly fried seafood and a tall glass of sparkling pear cider transported me back to my best dining experience in Barcelona. 

I’d like to recommend the Hawthorne Fish House for an additional reason: the casual vibe.  How can a great restaurant so close to 39th and Hawthorne be so utterly devoid of hipsterism?  I gotta tell you, it was kind of a relief.  Don’t get me wrong, I love hipsters.  I’m a hipster.  I married a hipster.  But sometimes I just want to sit down in a comfortable, unpretentious place and have a tasty meal without feeling pressured to relinquish my table or be blasted away with cool tunes.  The Hawthorne Fish House feels just like a casual restaurant on the Oregon coast, except the food is ten times better.  And just to further encourage you to try it, there are plenty of non-fried choices on the menu.  I can’t wait to go back and try the halibut tacos with pineapple-chipotle salsa.

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